Common law marriage is a term that is used by many people in Washington state who have lived together for many years without being formally married. Even though judges will attempt to make a major issue about individuals separating and wanting a divorce as though it is some kind of spiritual union, the real truth is that the government views marriage just like a business relationship with the exception of its impact on dependent children.
Community property in Washington state
For those in Washington who do separate, they are living in a community property state. There can be establishment requirements with respect to when the union actually began regarding living together, but a beginning point can often be verified. Having children together can matter as well, which may be the determining factor in any court decision. Community property law holds that all property acquired during the union belongs equally to each spouse and is subject to property division when they separate.
Exemptions from property division
There are still some property exemptions when common law couples divorce, some of which also apply to married couples. Any property that was acquired before an established union date or any inheritance received during the union is personal holdings and not subject to property division. Real estate is usually the central issue even when vehicles could be part of the division focus, and the names on the property titles can control allocation.
Any funds held in bank accounts are subject to property division as well, and especially when both names are on an account. How finances were traditionally handled and who provided the most household income can also be part of the division equation when there is a significant disparity between the parties, including when one parent sacrifices a career to stay home and raise children.